13 Mind-Blowing Colors Found In Nature

When images of China's "rainbow mountains" went viral last week, we—like so many others—were entranced by the incredible colors of nature. [slideshow:752]

But then we noticed the disclaimer: "There could be some slight photo manipulation going on to make the colors pop." After a little research, we realized this was definitely the case (compare the previous shots to these photos).

Click here to see Mother Nature's most brilliant displays of colors.

Still, we had been inspired and were determined to find the most jaw-dropping displays of color Mother Nature had to offer. After fishing around, we realized that not only is the natural world full of neon and jewel-toned hues, but also got a crash course in how these displays came to exist.

Of course, these incredible hues aren't just for aesthetics. You might recall the classic case of color in the animal kingdom: the male peacock, whose beautiful feathers are used to attract females. Still, animals use myriad shades for many other reasons, too. While cuttlefish change color rapidly to avoid predators and orange oak leaf butterflies are permanently camouflaged to blend into their habitat, other animals such as the cinnabar moth caterpillar and poison arrow frog flaunt bright shades as a warning sign to other creatures.

Click here to see some of the world's most colorful plants, animals and natural features.

Plant species also put their colors to work, using their unique pigments to attract pollinators. Some species—such as plants in the phlox family–even change their hues based on which animals are present during a given time. For instance, researchers from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff found that the scarlet gilia shifted its shade of red to attract moths in one season and hummingbirds in another.  

In animals, plants or natural features, vibrant colors can come from a variety of sources—their diet, minerals, bacteria, cellular structure, or simply a genetic ability to create a unique (and sometimes changing) display of pigmentation.

But even if the real story behind these brilliant hues is biological (that's right—Mother Nature doesn't flaunt her colors just for humans to enjoy), we can still seek out incredible displays for the joy, wonder and reverence they inspire. Take a look through our slideshow to see some of the most amazing shows of color in the natural world.